Durban - A day after the Department of Home Affairs announced it would extend its operating hours until January 10, scores of people queueing outside the Umgeni Road office fumed as workers downed tools at 10am citing broken air conditioners.
Chantelle Reddy, who said she had been in the queue since 5am, said the Home Affairs employees were inconsiderate.
“They say it’s hot and their aircons are not working. What about us standing outside in the scorching sun, in 30°C heat?” Reddy said.
Another client, Mike Pieterson, said there were also people with babies waiting for hours on end. He said the Home Affairs staff did not come back from their 10am tea break because they said they couldn’t stand the heat.
Fikile Chili and her daughter, who needed an ID for matric registration, had waited in the queue since dawn.
A woman who refused to be named said she had gone to a loan shark to borrow money to go to Home Affairs, complaining that she had also been at the office on Monday and employees said their system was down.
At 1.45pm, after hours of waiting, people were eventually addressed by manager Mbongeni Mgagula, who told them he had sent employees to communicate what the problem was but they were blocked by other outraged customers.
He said he had held a meeting with his staff, who then returned to their stations but had found that the system was down so no work could be done.
“Right now the system is offline, but we’re waiting to see what progress happens with the system as the day goes. However, currently, the department has announced that we’re closing at 7pm. The Umgeni office will not stop (the extended hours) on January 10, but will continue closing late for the whole month. Again, we will be open all weekend in January (excluding this weekend), up to the first week of February,” said Magagula as he was heckled by shouting customers.
By 3.30pm yesterday, there was no reply to a call to Magagula to establish whether the staff had resumed work.
The department announced the extended hours - from 8am to 7pm - to meet the anticipated increase in demand for services during the period before the schools reopen.
At the beginning of each year, the department had seen an increased demand for enabling documents such as smart ID cards and passports, birth and death certificates, and for amendments and rectifications, said spokesperson Siya Qoza.
“We will ensure that everyone who is inside an office at the time of closing receives required services. Office managers/supervisors are to apply their discretion to close the office 30 minutes prior to knock-off time,” the department announced this week.
“We hope the period of extended operating hours will enable people who have applied for smart ID cards, but were unable to collect them because of time constraints, to come and collect them.”